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Sha'rawi, Huda (1879–1947)

Margot Badran


Egyptian feminist leader Huda Sha'rawi was born on her father's estate in Minya in Upper Egypt. Her father, Sultan Pasha, was a wealthy landowner and a provincial administrator, and a member of the national Chamber of Deputies. Her mother, Iqbal Hanim, was a young woman of Circassian origin brought from Turkey to Egypt as an infant. Huda Sha'rawi left memoirs offering an unusual window into her private life ( Sha'rawi 1981 ; Shaarawi 1987 ). Nur al-Huda Sultan (Huda Sha'rawi following her marriage) was raised in Cairo in a household presided over by her mother and a co-wife following her father's death when she was five. Familiar with Turkish, the language of her mother (and the Turco-Circassian ruling class), Huda routinely spoke and read French, the language of the elites. She spoke vernacular Arabic but could not read or write in the language. As a girl she memorized the Qur'an under the guidance of a shaikh (a religious teacher), but much to her chagrin was not permitted to study Arabic (the language of religious scholars and not deemed fitting for a girl). Huda shared lessons at home under European tutors with her younger brother'Umar. Huda was raised when female seclusion in the harim– quarters for women and young children–and gender segregation were practiced among the middle and upper urban classes. Huda took up the face veil at puberty. In comparing her life with that ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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